Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
It was quite a show.
238 cities performed as best they could.
They brought out their best tap-dancers and their finest schmoozers.
One can only imagine how gorgeous some of the PowerPoints must have been.
The search for Amazon's second headquarters, known as HQ2 -- not to be confused with HDQ2, which is the second movie in the Hung, Drawn and Quartered horror series -- was the kind of beauty pageant of which Donald Trump would surely dream.
Now, we have 20 finalists.
And, as WAMU reports, Amazon has turned the process upside down.
You must decide whether upside-down looks better.
It seems, you see, that Seattle's finest book-deliverer has made one draconian demand of the finalists.
Yes, they might have chatted volubly while the pageant was unfolding.
They might have touted their cities' prowess from a hundred different angles.
Now, they must shut up.
WAMU says that all the finalists have had to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements.
And Amazon's lawyers have the sort of reputation that these agreements are likely a lot tighter than some of the boxes in which Amazon delivers your toothpaste and underwear.
Indeed, the situation is apparently so comical that some cities are refusing to comment on the existence of the NDA.
One, Montgomery County in Maryland, has been an outlier in admitting the NDA existed and that Montgomery County had signed it.
Well, there go its chances, I hear you snort. (Currently, the betting has Montgomery County at 12/1.)
Of course, Amazon has placed itself in such a powerful position that it must feel it can set any conditions it wishes.
And the concept of transparency is, when historians look back, one of the more risible of our age.
Still, Amazon made it all feel like a family-fun game show at first.
If not a beauty pageant then a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? sort of thing.
Viewers could cheer their cities on and feel committed to the action. Contestants could even phone a friend.
Now, it's clear that the game show CEO Jeff Bezos had in mind was The Box, featured in the utterly stellar Showtime series Episodes.
There, people were locked inside transparent boxes and the winner would be the one who outlasted everyone else and survived bugs and frogs and all sorts of other humiliating tribulations.
That, I suspect, is how it will now feel for the leaders of the competing cities.